One of the fun parts of starting a business is deciding on its name. But what’s in a name is more than what meets the eye of the consumer. That’s especially true if you seek to protect your name with a US or international trademark. As a result, selecting the name involves a multi-step analysis. The first step is to select a name that would have the greatest likelihood of success of getting registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. The strongest trademarks, and those with the greatest likelihood of registration, are “fanciful” names such as Haagen Dazs – made-up words. The next strongest name is “arbitrary” such as Amazon.com; followed by “suggestive”, such as Micro-soft. “Descriptive” words such as American Airlines are difficult to register and, if even they are approved, the name may be confusing similar to other descriptive names. “Generic” names, such as escalator will lose their protection unless the owner is aggressively marketing the name to demonstrate its origin.
After selecting several name possibilities, conduct, at minimum, a search of the name on the US Patent and Trademark Office website (http://www.uspto.gov/) to see if that name is already registered and, if so, in what section of good and services. If the name is being used for fertilizer (agricultural products) and you seek to use the name for a hair salon, then the consumer will likely not be confused by the origin of the service, and you will likely get your trademark approved. The next step is to see if the website domain is available, which can be done through a Google search. Lastly, I would also see if the name is registered with the secretary of state as an LLC or corporation. Ideally, it would be advantageous to have the name trademarked, and also used as the website domain address, as well as the official entity name.